I have fond memories of hiking and skiing at Highbanks back in the day, that is, when I was in my 50’s and at the peek of my physical fitness. This week, I had vague glimpses of those happy times as I tried to relive those feelings with Dora and my friend Dan, but my happiness came not as a result of my elusive strength or endurance but because of my friendship with a man who was willing to trudge along with me on our quest to hike in all 19 Metro Parks in the area. Dora wasn’t on the same mission. She was just thrilled to not have to walk around the same old neighborhood sidewalks. Here were gravel paths, big and mighty trees, a few ruts to guide me around with precision, and now and then a dog or a little kid, but thankfully no bikes.
Almost the moment we climbed out of the car and adjusted our sun glasses and fanny packs, we started uphill on the Overlook Trail. The terrain underfoot waved up and down, as if the glacier that formed this park moved in fits and starts. We’d get to the top of a rise, only to start down the other side, but not for long. It was the most interesting and challenging walk so far. Funny how I don’t recall it’s being challenging back in the day. At one park bench strategically placed at the top of a rise, I used the excuse of needing to give Dora a drink for my own need to breathe. Dan took advantage of that time to capture the beauty of what he called an enchanted tree, because its branches spread in all directions while the surrounding trees paled in comparison.
At last, as we started down another descent, Dan announced that he could see the overlook platform. But the sign told us that we were 110 feet above the Olentangy River. Dan pointed out a tree that appeared to be growing through the deck of the overlook platform, but of course, the builders had protected the tree by constructing the deck around it, as you see in the picture. The Olentangy is not particularly pretty or wide, but it does meander past this spot, providing a rewarding view after a strenuous hike to get there. Even though I couldn’t see them, a rarified feeling overtook me, knowing we were looking down upon the treetops. I could hear geese around the bend, but none made an appearance for us.
After a brief rest on a bench back at the beginning of this trail, we agreed that it would be fun to go back and do it again, since we had only traversed 2 miles. But here’s where that old saw was so appropriate. The spirit was willing, but the flesh weak. My left leg was really giving me trouble, but I didn’t want to quit just yet. So we found another trail that was a flat mile and a half, part of which ran alongside the Olentangy, thus giving us a whole different perspective of the river. . Still, it was a tranquil walk, with trees on our left and a meadow on our right.
As usual, Dora chose to walk either right down the middle or hug the left side of the path, but at this park, the other walkers seemed to recognize that Dora thought she owned the right-of-way, and would either step off and let her pass, or go to their left, our right, avoiding an awkward moment. Maybe they knew that guide dogs are trained to hug the left shoreline. I’d say probably not, but it was amusing to observe yet another kind of encounter as we walked on other than neighborhood sidewalks. Eleven parks to go, but many have very short trails, so we might be able to do more than one in a day. Stay tuned..
The Bumpy Road to Assisted Living: a Daughter’s Memoir
Insight Out: One Blind Woman’s View of Her Life
Available at www.dldbooks.com/maryhiland